How is COVID-19 impacting cats and dogs, and what support is needed?
Eurogroup for Animals has put together the following information to help governments and the public consider COVID-19’s impact on companion animals.
COVID-19 can be a very serious disease for some people. Being taken into hospital may mean their dog or cat has to be taken to a shelter. In countries with no animal care facilities, the challenges of caring for pets are greater, and need to be considered ahead of time.
Dog and cat owners and carers should make provisions for continuous care for their animals during both illness and lockdown by planning ahead to ensure they have sufficient food, medicines and up-to-date vaccinations. They should also have someone who can take over caring for their pets if it becomes necessary. Safety measures should be followed, such as regular hand-washing. Owners with COVID-19 should reduce contact with pets.
Animal shelters will be under immense pressure due to an increase in intake, a result of taking in animals from ill owners or owners who have died, and coping with animals that have been abandoned or relinquished to shelters due to lack of funds or through misguided concerns over the transmission of COVID-19. Rehoming may also decrease, as visits to adoption centres are forbidden and cross border adoption is put on hold.
We ask the public to consider supporting their local animal shelter with financial or in-kind donations or through fostering, adopting or, if possible, volunteering – following all safety measures – during these difficult times.
Lockdown and state of emergency procedures may force NGOs and municipalities to pause the sterilization programmes that make up part of their humane stray dog or cat population management, leaving animals that would otherwise have been sterilised free to reproduce. This may lead to an increase in unwanted animals in the short-term.
Lockdown may also result in many food sources for stray animals, such as restaurants or rubbish stations, being closed, so that animals living on the streets have no or limited access to food. In these cases, feeding programmes will be required to help care for stray animals in need during the outbreak, as well as veterinary services.
Breeders & Pet Shops
Young animals who are part of the puppy/kitten trade or who are in pet shops may face euthanasia if some breeders/pet shops do not wish to keep hold of them during lockdown. There should be clear guidance to breeders and pet shops not to euthanise animals and to relinquish to shelters if necessary, providing adequate donation to cover costs.
Eurogroup for Animals’s message to the governments
Governments need to make the message clear that the spread of COVID-19 is a result of human to human transmission. To date, there is no evidence that companion animals can spread the disease. While there are canine and feline coronaviruses that can make your dog or cat unwell, these are not the one causing the current pandemic, and they do not cause COVID-19. The pandemic is no justification for euthanising pets or culling stray animals.
Governments must also define pet food and critical veterinary care as ‘essential’ goods and services during lockdown. Shelter staff and volunteers must also be defined as ‘essential workers’ so that they can take care of animals and run feeding programmes for strays. In short, governments, communities and the public should consider the needs of companion animals during the pandemic and provide the necessary support during these difficult times.